Lost film

Opera House to screen ‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House will present a new documentary in a special one-night-only screening on Thursday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is the story of the incredible discovery of more than 500 silent films thought to be lost forever.

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” pieces together the bizarre true history of a collection of some 500 films dating from 1910s – 1920s, which were lost for more than 50 years until being discovered buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory. The film depicts the unique history of a Canadian gold rush town by chronicling the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation — and through that collection, how a First Nation hunting camp was transformed and displaced.

Dawson City, located about 350 miles south of the Arctic Circle was an important hunting and fishing area for a nomadic First Nation tribe. The town was settled in 1896 — the same year large-scale cinema projectors were invented — and it became the center of the Klondike Goldrush that brought 100,000 prospectors to the area. The Dawson Amateur Athletic Association (DAAA) opened in 1902 and began showing films and soon, the city became the final stop for a distribution chain that sent prints and newsreels to the Yukon. The films were seldom, if ever, returned.

By the late 1920s, 500 films had accumulated in the basement of the local Library, under the care of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. In 1929, Clifford Thomson, bank employee and treasurer of the local hockey association, moved the films to the town’s hockey rink, stacked and covered them with boards and a layer of earth. The now famous Dawson City Collection was uncovered in 1978 when a new recreation center was being built and a bulldozer working its way through a parking lot dug up a horde of film cans.

Glenn Kenny, in the New York Times, calls the film “an instantaneously recognizable masterpiece.” Richard Brody, in New Yorker magazine, calls it a “fiercely precise and discerning look at movies themselves as embodiments of history.” Kenneth Turan, in the Los Angeles Times, says the film “is indescribable not because it’s ambiguous (it’s totally straightforward) but because it does so many things so beautifully it is hard to know where to begin.” Unrated, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” runs two hours.

The Opera House Cinema Series is sponsored by Lake Shore Savings Bank. Tickets are available at the door for $7 (adults), $6.50 (seniors & Opera House members) and $5 (students) the night of each screening. A book of 10 movie passes is available for $60 at the door or online at www.fredopera.org. For more information, call the Opera House Box Office at 679-1891.

The Opera House is equipped with individualized closed-captioning headsets for the deaf as well as with assistive listening headsets for the hearing-impaired. Simply request one from any usher or Opera House staff member.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit performing arts center located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.fredopera.org.